Now I don’t happen to agree with Blind Melon, for instance, that three is a magic number, but it is certainly a most effective one for ordering one’s ideas. Examples:
Past, Present, Future;
Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité;
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness;
Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter;
Father, Son and Holy Spirit;
Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis;
Too Hot, Too Cold, Just Right;
and, as one Dublin coffee house has it, Small, Tall and, eh, Grande.
When someone starts paragraphs with ‘Fourth’, or ‘Fifth’, we can be reasonably sure that they are over-egging the pudding.
Just as there are three lions on an English football shirt, one can discern three phases in Irish attitudes to the English national football team.
The first, which can be called the colonial phase, is when the Irish person wants England to lose, because the team is a kind of symbol of the awful British Empire.
The second, which can be called the nationalist phase, is when the Irish person is conscious of the narrow-mindedness inherent in the first phase, is proud of his own national team, and recognises the English team as just another national team in the great symphony of global football. Given its proximity to Ireland, and the intertwined history of both islands, especially in football, the Irish person wishes to see the English team do well.
The third phase, call it the liberationist phase, is when the Irish person no longer concerns himself with the specific relationship between Ireland and England, and either adopts a stance of vague indifference, or freely joins with the rest of the world in wanting England to lose.